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Author Topic: Spring swarming question  (Read 1059 times)

Offline Bob Wilson

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Spring swarming question
« on: December 02, 2020, 12:49:15 pm »
I am studying about the many benefits of keeping a few nucs on hand. One reason is to help alleviate swarming pressure during early spring buildup. I do not understand that.
If colonies build up early before spring flow, why not just expand the brood nest, in essence creating a double brood box. I thought big build up in the spring was the goal. Shouldn't we make as large a spring build up as possible, preventing swarming by giving them even MORE room as a single colony?
If it is about lack of winter resources, I don't see how taking out frames to create a nuc will help with that. It is still the same amount of bees and resources.

...Unless the swarm prevention concept is to prevent swarming when a colony has been allowed to become congested and it is already in swarm mode with QC already appearing.
« Last Edit: December 02, 2020, 01:00:24 pm by Bob Wilson »

Offline TheHoneyPump

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Re: Spring swarming question
« Reply #1 on: December 02, 2020, 01:09:58 pm »
Giving them space to expand, at the right time, will avert swarms and build massive colonies. ... Is what I do and achieve hives stacked 5 to 8 deep boxes high mid summer that are stuffed with bees.  Massive workforces bringing in copious amounts of nectar in a short period.
However, there is a threshold population size where no matter how much more space is added the colony instinctively goes into reproductive mode (swarm) regardless of what the beekeeper does.  In my experience, the tipping point at which swarm cells start showing up is a nest of between 8 and 10 fairly full brood frames. I am talking brood, not resources nor number of boxes.  When a colony is approaching that level, cut them back to 4 or 5 brood frames by taking away brood frames for new colony startups (building nucs) or boosting the other weaker colonies nearby. 

Double queen colonies can exceed that threshold of 8 to 10 brood frames to around 15 to 18 frames of brood before the switch is flipped.  Provided the beekeeper is proactive and stacks the skyscraper at the right time.  I believe is due to the extra queen pheromones circulating more strongly throughout the hive.

That is the threshold for my bees that I raise myself.  Other strains, genetics, may have tendency to go when smaller or when bigger.  You will have to figure out what you have based on observation and your notes of the size of the nest when swarm cells first start showing up.  How good are your historical notes, Bob?  I recall you having swarming problems last spring.  Review your notes to reveal this threshold for the bees and hardware that you have.  Then do your best manage the brood nest under that threshold.

High level brief on swarm control:
- from past inspection notes, figure out the brood nest size threshold for the bees you have and the equipment you are keeping them in.
To avert swarming, there are two separate entities in the colony that have to have their needs satisfied.
- The queen.  She needs to have 3 frames of empty comb available to her in the brood nest at all times.  At each inspection, the beekeepers job is to assess the size of the nest and adjust the brood frames to satisfy her need and keep the nest size under the threshold.
- The bees.  They need 2 to 3 completely empty frames (no bees) of space for each frame of brood counted in the brood nest.  This is over and above whatever frames are already in the hive that are already occupied (mostly covered) by bees.  This is space just for the new bees to live when they emerge.  To this, you must also add workspace -honey supers- for the amount of flower flow that is on at the time of inspection.

If the beekeeper is not satisfying those needs of the two entities nor mindful of the nest size threshold ... that person will soon not be a beekeeper, they become a bee hadder ... because the bees will leave in swarms.  Satisfy those two needs at each inspection to keep the bees in the boxes (bee-keeper), and you will rarely have swarms.  That is until the hive reaches the size threshold noted.

Hope that helps!
« Last Edit: December 02, 2020, 01:44:38 pm by TheHoneyPump »
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Offline Bob Wilson

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Re: Spring swarming question
« Reply #2 on: December 02, 2020, 03:18:55 pm »
It does, HoneyPump. I will have to read over the advice several time to understand it all.
And yes, after your comment last year, I quickly began keeping notes on each hive. It is only one year/season of notes, and I am still trying to recognize what is important to note in each inspection, but it is all slowly getting clearer.
Thanks. The above is some good information.

Offline The15thMember

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Re: Spring swarming question
« Reply #3 on: December 02, 2020, 05:38:17 pm »
Great information as always, HP.  :happy:
I come from under the hill, and under the hills and over the hills my paths led.  And through the air, I am she that walks unseen.

Offline little john

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Re: Spring swarming question
« Reply #4 on: December 02, 2020, 05:41:42 pm »
I can't remember the last time one of my hives swarmed, but then I'm not a honey-farmer and so never get to develop the high-density, high honey-yield situation which many beekeepers encounter, which frequently triggers swarming.

During 1920 in the ABJ, G.S.Demuth mentions that the hive which resulted from a collaboration between D.L.Adair and Elisha Gallup back in 1875 was considered to be a non-swarming beehive, and was thought at that time to be THE ultimate beehive design, but then the subsequent adoption of foundation was to give Langstroth's Hive a fresh lease of life, albeit with the return of the swarming problem.

Afaik, the only non-swarming beehive currently operating is that of a Russian/Ukrainian commercial beekeeper. More details of his system, together with numerous links to videos of it can be found at:
A Heretics Guide to Beekeeping - http://heretics-guide.atwebpages.com

Offline Oldbeavo

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Re: Spring swarming question
« Reply #5 on: December 06, 2020, 05:38:48 pm »
Conditions as well as weather are our determining factors for swarming.
We come off 4 weeks of almond where the bees build the brood very quickly, they then go to canola in full flower, good nectar and high fat pollen. if we don't pull these hives down they will swarm as we only run single brood boxes.
Running single brood boxes does make swarm control more difficult.
We can take 2-3 frames of brood and bees to form a nuc. This seems to be enough to keep swarming under control for most of spring.
Though we have had the bees swarm 2 months later when on heavy flows of Tea Tree (Leptospernum).
As per Michael Bush we like to reduce the brood before queen cells appear. Michaels advice is that once the bees form QC's they are in swarm mode and may still swarm in the near future.

Offline Michael Bush

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Re: Spring swarming question
« Reply #6 on: December 07, 2020, 07:08:50 pm »
My website:  bushfarms.com/bees.htm en espanol: bushfarms.com/es_bees.htm  auf deutsche: bushfarms.com/de_bees.htm  em portugues:  bushfarms.com/pt_bees.htm
My book:  ThePracticalBeekeeper.com
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Offline Beelab

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Re: Spring swarming question
« Reply #7 on: December 11, 2020, 08:16:28 am »
Plenty of food for thought provided in this thread. Thanks all.
I run single brood boxes (8 frame), and they do need weekly management on a good flow. Like now.
I haven?t resorted to double brood yet, but keep stacking up the supers at the moment.
There is so much nectar coming in, the bees don?t have time to cap it all and keep building white comb into the roof if I don?t put another super on.
HoneyPump, please keep posting. I much value your calculations and experience.
I?m always looking at Michael Bush?s website too.
Thanks again.

Offline Mamm7215

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Re: Spring swarming question
« Reply #8 on: December 11, 2020, 01:58:52 pm »
I run 8 frame boxes with a deep under medium brood boxes.  Then it's stacking/exchanging medium honey supers all season.  Works well for me.